After enjoying the sheltering days of the year-end holidays spent with family and friends and indulging in treats, in January theatermakers look outward again, to the issues facing the globe. Often at the fore of ideas and inspirations, theaters now put sociopolitical themes and stories back in our line of sight—not that any of these will be dreary lectures. We’re betting these five stage offerings, listed in order of closing dates, will not only be worth your theatergoing time and money this month but also motivate you to help shape our world in 2020.
Lula Washington Dance Theatre
Bram Goldsmith Theater at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Jan 30–Feb 1
For 40 years, Lula Washington has explored political, social and humanitarian issues through dance. A native Angeleno, Washington studied dance at UCLA, then established her own company that has toured the world, creating powerful, visceral, memorable works over the last 40 years in styles encompassing African, Afro-Haitian, modern, ballet, street and gospel. For this pair of performances, she presents several world premieres by up-and-coming choreographers, centering on our times and the city of Los Angeles.
9390 N Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills (310-746-4000). Thu–Sat at 7:30pm. $29–$79.
The Last Ship
Ahmanson Theatre, Jan 14–Feb 16
This West Coast premiere and start of the national tour features a new book by its director, Lorne Campbell (original book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey), with music and lyrics by Sting (of the Police, for those of you living through the 1980s). And yes, Sting will star in the production. Inspired by Sting’s childhood in the shipbuilding industry of Northumberland in England, the story follows a young man who turns his back on his forebears and decides to explore the planet’s seas. Meantime, Thatcher’s Britain has not been good to his hometown. Time Out New York critic David Cote called the score “magnificent.”
135 N Grand Ave (213-972-4400). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. (Added 2pm performance Thu, Feb 13. No 6:30pm performance Sun, Feb 16.) $35–$179, subject to change.
What the Constitution Means to Me
Mark Taper Forum, Jan 12–Feb 23
Heidi Schreck’s 2017 play, which hit Broadway in early 2019, features her present-day self and her 13-year-old self, debating such issues as immigration, domestic abuse and equal rights. Be prepared to think about, and ultimately decide along with your fellow audience members, a basic human right—whether or not it’s already granted by the Constitution—as you observe maturing in Schreck’s, and our own, understanding of the issues. Oliver Butler directs, Tony-nominated Maria Dizzia stars.
135 N Grand Ave (213-628-2772). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1pm. $25–$175, subject to change.
Until the Flood
Kirk Douglas Theatre, Jan 24–Feb 23
In response to the shooting death of 18-year-old black man Michael Brown by a white police officer in August 2014, and the subsequent social uprising in the Missouri city of Ferguson, playwright Dael Orlandersmith interviewed dozens of St. Louis residents and created this solo work, in which Orlandersmith portrays all the characters. The show promises to “discuss the roots of unrest and the search for healing,” with hope for all our futures. The intensely creative Neel Keller directs.
9820 Washington Blvd, Culver City (213-628-2772). Tue–Fri at 8pm; Sat at 2, 8pm; Sun at 1, 6:30pm. $30–$75, subject to change.
Earthquakes in London
Rogue Machine in Electric Lodge, Jan 16–Mar 1
This story covers decades, or maybe even centuries, as three sisters live through societal discord and possibly an environmental apocalypse. That sounds like a convoluted plot, but it explores convoluted issues in convoluted times. Says the theater, “Strip shows, overpopulation, nihilism and climate change collide in a world that, faced with the end of everything, chooses to bury its head in the sand.” Yikes. But because John Perrin Flynn and Hollace Starr co-direct this West Coast premiere by Mike Bartlett (King Charles III), we’re betting it’ll also be a visual knockout (scenic design by the gifted David Mauer) and a visceral few hours.
1416 Electric Ave, Venice (855-585-5185, roguemachinetheatre.net). Fri, Sat at 8pm, Sun at 2pm. (No performances Jan 17 or Feb 21). $25–$40.